As hurricane-turned-tropical-storm Harvey continues to ravage southeastern Texas, many Texas politicians, including former presidential candidate and amateur Muppet impersonator Senator Ted Cruz, are preparing to ask for federal relief funds to help recovery. The ask is understandable, as recovery will take years. But it's hypocritical, given his outspoken refusal to vote "yes" on Hurricane Sandy relief in 2012 and 2013. And this tweet about Ted Cruz and Hurricane Harvey highlights the hypocrisy at the core of his call for federal aid.
The tweet says, "When you ask the East Coast for Hurricane Relief after you voted against Sandy funding" and includes a cringe-inducing gif of then-candidate Cruz attempting to kiss his daughter for the cameras. (The painful gif is from Cruz on the campaign trail, when he asked his daughter if she was "taking off." She flicked her fingers at him and tried to dodge his kisses. #relatable.)
While funny, the tweet is a reminder of the long, painful, and ongoing recovery from Hurricane Sandy. And Cruz's refusal to help.
After Hurricane Sandy struck the east coast in 2012, Cruz was vocally opposed to disaster relief. In a 2013 press release, Cruz said,
Hurricane Sandy inflicted devastating damage on the East Coast, and Congress appropriately responded with hurricane relief. Unfortunately, cynical politicians in Washington could not resist loading up this relief bill with billions in new spending utterly unrelated to Sandy. [...] This bill is symptomatic of a larger problem in Washington – an addiction to spending money we do not have. The United States Senate should not be in the business of exploiting victims of natural disasters to fund pork projects that further expand our debt.
The destruction wrought by Sandy was historic: per CNN, 72 people in the U.S. died due to Sandy. Flooding destroyed countless businesses and homes and caused tens of billions of dollars in damage. People were trapped in their homes, millions without power. It was so powerful and so consequential that people are still recovering -- especially in New Jersey, where coastal towns were hit especially hard.
There were two parts to Sandy relief: one amended the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968 to increase the amount of money issues to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) from $20.725 billion to $30.425 billion. And it was so popular -- and so necessary -- that it took three days from the time it was introduced in the House of Representatives on Jan. 3, 2013 to the time then-President Barack Obama signed it into law on Jan. 6, 2013. (Senate held a voice vote for this bill, so there is no way to know how Cruz voted.)
The other was a $50 billion disaster appropriations bill that put funds toward recovery and prevention of another event such as Sandy. Cruz, along with fellow Texas Senator John Cornyn, voted no. (Cruz also voted no on a previous $60 billion bill, according to Business Insider.)
Okay, but maybe he just didn't understand the importance. Maybe the shoe just needed to be on the other foot.
Nah. Cruz just doubled down on his Sandy sentiments two days ago, on Aug. 28, during an interview with NBC's Katy Tur. He said, "There's time for political sniping later." (Tur, for her part, challenged him: "It's not really political sniping, Senator. These are people who needed money and needed funding right after that storm...Many of those, just like in Houston, lost everything they own.")
To which he responded,
I, and a number of others, enthusiastically and emphatically supported hurricane relief for Sandy. Hurricane relief and disaster relief has been a vital federal role for a long, long time, and it should continue. The problem with that particular bill is it became a $50 billion bill that was filled with unrelated pork. Two-thirds of that bill had nothing to do with Sandy, and what I said then and still believe now is that it's not right for politicians to exploit a disaster.
The Washington Post fact-checked his assertion that the bill was "two-thirds" pork, and they found that Cruz's assertion just wasn't true. In fact, a Congressional Research Service report found that virtually all of that $50 billion spending bill would go directly to Sandy relief and recovery. And the minuscule amount that wasn't apportioned to Sandy was going to disaster relief projects around the country.
Cruz's 180-turn on federal flood relief seems to be one instance in a long-standing pattern of self-styled small-government conservatives voting "no" on federal spending -- until they themselves need it.
And, as always, though Cruz is throwing around accusations of political exploitation in bills like the Sandy disaster relief fund, the fact of the matter is that it's the people who suffer for politicking like his.
People are still recovering from Sandy, and Houston will be grappling with Harvey for years to come. Of course we should pass a recovery bill for Harvey.
But if Cruz tries to rewrite history, the East Coast is going to come for him.